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MILITARY

EU defence ministers hash out plan for sending more ammunition to Ukraine

EU defence ministers on Wednesday discussed plans to raid their stockpiles to rush one billion euros' worth of ammunition to Ukraine and place joint orders for more to ensure supplies keep flowing.

EU defence ministers hash out plan for sending more ammunition to Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen fire a 105mm Howitzer towards Russian positions, near the city of Bakhmut, on March 4th. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP

Ukraine’s Western backers warn that Kyiv is facing a critical shortage of 155-millimetre howitzer shells as it fires thousands each day in its fight against a grinding Russian offensive.

Ministers meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov in Stockholm were debating a three-pronged push to meet Kyiv’s immediate needs and bolster Europe’s defence industry for the longer term.

“Our priority number one is air defence systems, and also ammunition, ammunition and again ammunition,” Reznikov said as he arrived for the meeting.

The first part of the plan, as laid out by the EU’s foreign policy service, envisions using one billion euros from the bloc’s joint European Peace Facility to get member states to send shells in their stocks to Kyiv within weeks.

Ukraine’s European allies have already depleted their shelves, committing some €12 billion of military support, with €3.6 billion coming from the joint fund.

There are questions over how many shells Europe can spare without leaving itself too vulnerable, and defence ministers were due to provide details.

“I don’t know which is the level of stockpiles, that is why we are here together,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

The second part of the plan is to pool EU and Ukraine demands to place massive joint orders that would incentivise ammunition producers to ramp up their capacity.

The move represents an important shift for the 27-nation bloc as Russia’s war has sped up the push to coordinate more on defence.

Baltic state Estonia initially proposed spending four billion euros on a million shells for Ukraine and wants more new funds committed.

But EU officials say the money to cover Ukraine’s needs could come from another one billion euros already in the joint kitty.

“It’s not enough because we need one million rounds, and approximately it should be four billion euros,” Reznikov said. “We need more.”

EU officials say they hope to agree on a firm plan to send the ammunition to Ukraine by a meeting of foreign ministers on March 20th.

‘War economy mode’

EU countries are weighing whether the bloc’s central defence agency or member states with more experience should negotiate contracts, given a strong desire to avoid seeing the process slowed down by bureaucracy.

There is also a thorny debate about buying ammunition from outside the bloc, as some argue the priority should be speed over helping European industry.

“If there are other deliveries from other states, I don’t think we should exclude that possibility,” Sweden’s Defence Minister Pål Jonson said.

“I think the focus should be on helping Ukraine and finding the best way to accomplish it.”

More broadly, there is a clear sense that after years of lower investment after the Cold War, more needs to be done to get EU defence firms to step up their output fast.

“We are at a decisive moment in our support to Ukraine and it is absolutely crucial that we move towards a sort of war economy mode,” EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said.

“We need definitely to make sure that we can increase drastically our capacity to produce more in Europe,” he said.

But German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said calls to put Europe’s economy on a war footing went too far.

“This would be a fatal signal” since it would mean that “we subordinate everything to the production of weapons and munitions”, he said.

“We – the European Union and Germany – are not at war.”

Article by AFP’s Max Delany

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MILITARY

What do the other Nordic countries say about crisis preparedness?

Denmark has advised its population to have supplies ready in case a crisis occurs, but the same step has already been taken by both Sweden and Norway.

What do the other Nordic countries say about crisis preparedness?

The Danish Emergency Management Service (Beredsskabstyrelsen, DEMA) has issued advicefor the general public to have certain supplies at home so that they are prepared in the event of a crisis.

“We are recommending this because if people can get by for three days, authorities can focus on doing what needs to be done and work on normalising the situation as quickly as possible,” the director of DEMA, Laila Reenberg, said at a briefing on the recommendations.

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Swedish authorities in 2018 issued a brochure to all Swedish households, titled Om krisen eller kriget kommer. There’s a version in English, If Crisis or War Comes, available here.

A new version of that booklet was ordered earlier this year by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), while the general advice from Swedish authorities is always to have enough supplies at home to see your household through one to two weeks if needed – longer than the three days stated in the new Danish guidance.

Swedes are meanwhile advised to keep paper printouts of information such as insurance policies, bank details and registration certificates and the Swedish checklist (which, unlike Denmark’s has been produced in English) goes into intricate detail about the types of food and other supplies that are advised.

No booklet has yet been issued in Denmark – the advice is so far only available in Danish on DEMA’s website. However, Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen has said that information will be sent to all residents in Denmark by secure email “after the summer”.

Folders will also be placed at libraires and other public institutions, he said.

The Norwegian Civil Defence also keeps guidelines of what residents should keep in their homes for emergencies.

The website sikkerhverdag.no – operated by the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection – recommends that households have enough supplies for seven days. 

This includes a small emergency reserve of essentials such as water, food that can be kept at room temperature, medicines, and heat sources like warm blankets and jackets (rather than an electric blanket).

Like Denmark, the Norwegian agency recommends three litres of water per person per day for cooking and drinking, as well as iodine tablets if you are under 40, pregnant, breastfeeding or have children living at home.

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